Egyptian authorities confirmed Saturday that a political coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the 84-year-old group that virtually invented political Islam, had won about 47 percent of the seats in the first Parliament elected since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. An alliance of ultraconservative Islamists won the next largest share of seats, about 25 percent.
The tally, with the two groups of Islamists together winning about 70 percent of the seats, indicates the deep cultural conservatism of the Egyptian public, which is expressing its will through free and fair elections for the first time in more than six decades.
But the two groups have described very different visions and appear to be rivals rather than collaborators. The Brotherhood has said it intends to respect personal liberties and will focus on economic and social issues, gradually nudging the culture toward its conservative values. By contrast, the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, put a higher priority on legislation on Islamic moral issues, like the consumption of alcohol, women’s dress and the contents of popular culture.
The data was there for us to infer that this would be the outcome. Nevertheless I do recall back in the heady days of the Arab Spring some commenters infected by revolutionary fervor would scoff at the purported Islamist sympathies of the people. What this goes to show is that enthusiasm and hope does not translate into reality. If secular liberals in Egypt bow before the principle of popularity, then they accept that it is right and proper that they present their throats to their new overlords. I don’t view this as an apocalypse. It is what it is. But it was predictable.